Beyond Congregations -- What's a Religious Movement?

When some people hear that President Morales wants us to think of ourselves as "a religious movement," they get anxious.  It sounds like the UUA will become even more boundary-less and intentionally less organized.

As I understand it, the UUA will never be a "religious movement".  After all, it is a legally incorporated non-profit organization with all the appropriate IRS status designations.  It has a Board and everything.  These are not the signs of a "movement".  Was the "Great Awakening" ever incorporated?

Liberal Religion is a movement among the people.  It is a spontaneous mass -movement of resignation from most forms of "organized religion" as people adopt as their religious views these propositions:

religious traditions are cultural responses to the basic human condition,
religious truth claims are unverifiable,
the goal of the religious life is ethical behavior
an ethical approach to life includes religious pluralism.

The Liberal Religious movement is very diverse, very unorganized, and holds a wide variety of opinions about all spiritual and religious questions.  It seems to be at least one third of the population of the United States.

Unitarian Universalism is an institution that operates within the Liberal Religious movement, one of many such institutions.  When we go "beyond congregations" we are seeking to find additional ways to engage those people who are already on the move, religiously and spiritually.

Instead of being less focused and less organized, Unitarian Universalism will have to become more clear, more focused and more intentional about how to engage people who are religiously liberal, but religiously inactive.  We will also have to be more supple, more invention and more improvisational as we work with specific people in specific situations.


  1. Right: religious liberalism is a movement, the UUA is an institution. And the UUA Board governs an institution, not a movement.

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